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New Chemotherapy Combination Extends Survival For Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer by Nearly Two Months

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 8:23am

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network announced that today Merrimack Pharmaceuticals reported a 1.9 month improvement in survival for patients treated with the combination of its drug, MM-398, with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin.  According to Merrimack, the NAPOLI-1 phase III study achieved an overall survival of 6.1 months, compared to 4.2 month survival demonstrated by the control group of 5-FU and leucovorin. The study involved three participant groups, all patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who had been previously treated with gemcitabine (Gemzar) -based chemotherapy.   Patients were treated with either Merrimack's drug, MM-398 (irinotecan liposome injection), the chemotherapy drug 5-FU and leucovorin (a standard treatment option) or a combination of MM-398 with 5-FU and leucovorin.

The results of this trial are encouraging for pancreatic cancer patients, a disease where many patients need to pursue several options during the course of treatment. Approximately 55 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease, and most who are diagnosed at an earlier stage eventually progress to this stage.

This treatment has the potential to be an option for many patients where to date, little therapeutic progress has been made.  The success of this trial highlights the importance of designing trials that explore options beyond first-line therapy.

"The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's goal is to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020. The positive results of this trial demonstrate progress toward that goal in a disease for which additional treatment options are urgently needed to improve patient outcomes," stated Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "Though we always hope for momentous solutions to treat pancreatic cancer, we are encouraged by any type of progress.  We know any new developments will eventually lead to even greater treatment advances, and also underscore the important role clinical trials play when patients are exploring their treatment options.  We applaud Merrimack's dedication to improving the treatment landscape for this patient population, and helping us charge forward in the fight against pancreatic cancer." The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network encourages all patients to consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options. The organization has a comprehensive up-to-date database of all approved pancreatic cancer-specific clinical trials taking place nationwide and can do a personalized search for patients through our Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program.

"As a result of this specific trial, 417 patients have helped change treatment options for this disease and created a legacy of progress to those yet to be diagnosed," added Fleshman.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the nation's deadliest cancers with a five-year survival rate of just 6 percent. It is currently the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and is anticipated to become the second by 2020. This year, an estimated 46,000 American's will be diagnosed with the disease and nearly 40,000 will die. 

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